Before we really professionalized the Beach Patrol, in the days before liability was an issue and we had a 2.6 minute average response time, it was a much looser outfit. This is true of most every long standing beach lifeguard service. Of course those of us still in the game romanticize the old days and all the fun we had that the current staff didn’t have, can’t have, and will never have. And there’s truth to how fun it was back then versus now, because our men and women work. They’re focused and attentive and have very little down time during the day. And that’s as it should be. But, still, the stories from back then are better. Many of the stories are not appropriate for a public news column, but some are just plain funny.
30 years ago I rode “wet seat” regularly with an older and more experienced lifeguard, who shall remain nameless. I was around 21 and he was about 10 years older. The beaches were wilder and we had much less lifeguard and security coverage so we got into all kinds of scrapes. We rescued dozens of people, broke up countless fights, and joked around constantly. He didn’t talk much and constantly wore those really “Top Gun” looking aviator glasses, which went well with the short 80’s style uniform shorts and the sporty v neck t-shirts that we had as uniforms.
One thing I really liked to do when I was the one driving was pull up to a group of ladies on his side. I’d stop the truck and yell out his window in a really squealy, girly voice, “MY FRIEND LIKES YOU!!!!”. I probably still have bruises from all the times he hit me to get me to drive off as he looked straight ahead and tried to retain some semblance of cool.
One day we were patrolling the west end and he spotted something. A woman was walking towards us beachcombing. He stopped the truck and ripped off his shirt and shorts so he was only wearing a very small black Speedo (it was the 80’s remember?). He mumbled something about giving him a cup that he had stored in the door. I pulled it out and handed it to him. He quickly rummaged around in it and pulled out several sharks’ teeth, including one that looked like it must have come from the movie Jaws. Then he walked off down the beach, pretending to look for shells.
Being young and curious, I grabbed the binoculars and watched as they crossed paths. It looked like he just nodded and kept walking by. She turned and said something. He gestured a question and she held something small up. He nodded and turned away and started walking. She called him and he turned to see her pointing at his hand. He kind of shrugged nonchalantly and pulled out the Megaladonasaurus tooth. The rest is history. We went back to patrolling, but they dated for about 20 years and are still friends.